By Lindsay Ritter, CH2M HILL Sustainability Director, Operations & Maintenance Business Group

Earth Day was a watershed moment for environmental issues in the United States; it changed the way we manage and protect our natural resources. It also changed how we collectively orient to our natural environment, building a focus on quality of life and increasing emphasis on living sustainably. Each year I’m inspired by Earth Day; it evokes a sense of renewal and reminds me to gather with my community, work to preserve our natural treasures, and of course, enjoy the beautiful spring weather.

The growing personal ethic of living sustainably, matched with the increasing industry opportunity to engage in sustainable practices is a confluence of interests that many organizations are seeking to capture. With Earth Day upon us, people are pondering the question “What can I do for Earth Day?” Perhaps we can capitalize on this sentiment and ask “How can organization capture our employees’ passions to help address our sustainability goals?”

CH2M HILL asked this question and found out we can do a lot! We harnessed the power of employee engagement to develop a Sustainability Program that spans some 200 water and wastewater treatment facilities we operate on behalf of our clients. We found our employees have personal interests and skills ranging from composting, to water conservation, to clean energy. By seeking out those interested in bringing their personal passions to their work, we developed a five-step process that created an award-winning, employee-owned Sustainability Program. In its first year, the Program generated 2.1 billion gallons of beneficial effluent reuse, 12,000 gallons of chemical reduction, and 5,600 tons of waste diversion and US$1.2 million in savings. Other activities include ecosystem enhancements and energy savings measures, all of which have a positive impact for years to come.

If you’ve been pondering “What should I do for Earth Day?” and find the employee engagement question interesting, consider discussing the five-step process below with your team to see if it’s a model your organization can use to leverage your employees’ passion.

1.) Establish Sustainability Champions for each of your departments or facilities to serve as primary coordinators. It’s best to select Champions through a volunteer process because it encourages individuals with a passion and interest in the program to participate.

2.) Train the Champions in the triple bottom line framework; the Plan, Do, Check, Act framework; and how your organization’s mission, vision, and goals relate to sustainability.

3.) Champions review the program with their teams and seek input to develop department sustainability goals that support your organization’s goals and targets.

4.) Finalize goals and monitor implementation progress throughout the year. Use quarterly milestones to capture accomplishments.

5.) Compile an end-of-year report for each department and the organization as a whole. Be sure to celebrate successes and recognize your Champions’ and employees’ dedication and efforts.

Empowering employees and recognizing early achievements builds momentum and creates the foundation for a robust sustainability program with vast potential. CH2M HILL is using this model to reap great benefits for our employees and clients. Below are some pictures of fun projects that came out of this program.

CH2M HILL support the City of Rio Rancho in their annual water festival which reaching 800+ students annually, supporting our client’s aggressive water use reduction goals.CH2M HILL support the City of Rio Rancho in their annual water festival which reaching 800+ students annually, supporting our client’s aggressive water use reduction goals.
The storm drain mural project brought together CH2M HILL, the City of Coos Bay, and community non-profits to raise awareness about protecting the community’s valuable resource, Coos Bay. As a fishing community known for its beautiful coastal stretches, this project embraced the client’s key values. The storm drain mural project brought together CH2M HILL, the City of Coos Bay, and community non-profits to raise awareness about protecting the community’s valuable resource, Coos Bay. As a fishing community known for its beautiful coastal stretches, this project embraced the client’s key values.
CH2M HILL Fayetteville staff tapped into personal and community commitment to earn Wildlife Habitat certification for the Noland WWTP. The work is being rolled up as part of the City’s participation in the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Acres for Wildlife Program. There is now a nature trail and an educational kiosk that Audubon Society and schools use for environmental education. CH2M HILL Fayetteville staff tapped into personal and community commitment to earn Wildlife Habitat certification for the Noland WWTP. The work is being rolled up as part of the City’s participation in the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Acres for Wildlife Program. There is now a nature trail and an educational kiosk that Audubon Society and schools use for environmental education.

 

As the Sustainability Director for CH2M HILL’s Operations & Maintenance Business Group, Lindsay Ritter catalogs best practices, develops stakeholder awareness, and integrates sustainable solutions into project delivery for water and wastewater utilities. Driving sustainability practices into O&M delivery through the establishment of key performance indicators allows for measured, continuous improvement with triple bottom line results. Ms. Ritter also serves public and private clients in sustainability program development and implementation.